September 26, 2020

Firsts, cheese, red tape, exams, Tosh is back, Victor Meldrew says and Kindle time!

Good morning folks

I trust you had a mighty fine weekend & that this finds you in tiptop form.
A quick round-up from the city of chaos.
A bit of a bonkers/busy week: Exams (my students, not me), end of cycle (marking, marking, marking) & a chunk of red-tape tossed in for good measure.
I was unsure whether to include this in the blog.
Now I know that some weeks it is more of a blog.
Things are (very) different here & at times I get so, so, so frustrated.
Generally however, I hope that this blog leaves you in a good mood!
Rather than end with this, I´ll start with it.
A week of four “firsts”.
One which I wish hadn´t happened.
One which still shocks me (part of a bigger problem).
One which I shouldn´t have done (but probably will do again).
One which I was lucky to get away with (& I promise I will never do again!)
What on Earth am I rambling on about now!
1) On Sunday it seems that everybody in Lima goes “en la playa” which translates to “in the beach”. I don’t know whether they all take turns to bury each other, but last Sunday I thought we’d join the throngs in their thongs (the Aussie term, not what you’re thinking, dirty mind!)
We headed south with my good mate Matthew & his family to Punta Rojas, less than a marathon distance away. Travelling back, the traffic heading north (on the Panamericana Sur) was bad, really bad & worse than expected.
We had left in good time (2-3pm) & were surprised how bad it was (one of our friends had got stuck for 5hrs a few weeks back. 5hrs to do 20 miles!)
The Police sometimes change the flow (like the Yorkshire Show, but less predictable, in that there is no real pattern here).
Instead of 3 lanes north & south, they´ll make it 5 lanes north (back to Lima) & one lane south.
So all 5 lanes north were rammed. Crawling along at sloth pace, we soon found out why.
A partially-covered-up body lay in the middle of the road, an outstretched arm from under a makeshift tarpaulin, with traffic driving round the poor soul. The traffic had slowed down because of people rubbernecking.
I don´t know how the poor person died, I can only surmise that they were knocked down crossing the road.
The Panamericana is a motorway/highway that stretches almost 20000 miles from Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) down to Ushuaia (Argentina), only broken up by the dark & mysterious Darien Gap.
From Lima it charges south & the traffic (when moving) cracks on at a fair old pace.
Despite signs stating the dangers of crossing & advising folk to use the bridges, people still ignore these warnings.
I´d never seen a dead body, we see them in the news more & more nowadays, but to see one real life is a sad & poignant moment. Sorry to be morbid.
2) The poverty here shocks me. It did from the start & always will. Now there is a much bigger contrast between the haves & have-nots.
The haves have everything-&-more & the have-nots have less than nothing.
I was out on the Clunk, tailing a shiny blue pedal-moped (just like the battered old Puch Maxi Clunk, like the first bike I first rode on!).
greenmachine1(Not shiny & not new). 

The traffic on Av. Javier Prado was erratically lurching & every time the traffic stopped, the guy wobbled a lot & then put down a crutch on his left hand side.
Was he riding with a broken leg, I wondered?
I passed him & noticed that he only had one leg.
It must take incredible courage to do such a thing, but as people here get no help from the state, he probably has to ride, to go somewhere to work or somehow make money to eat. It’s a very sad state of affairs.3) Many moons ago I convinced myself that I would learn to surf.
I took a course up the East coast of Oz & tried the poor instructor´s patience to the full!
For somebody with as little balance/coordination as me, surfing was always going to be a big ask.
After my course I poured my heart & soul into the sport. Living in North Bondi I was 97 steps from the beach.
I had one near drowning & generally didn´t improve. I moved back to Peru, bought a new board & continued to not improve.
(I have now sold my board!)

I always remember the Instructor passionately telling a tale about a huge & gnarly “tube” he had surfed in “Indo” (How the Aussies love to shorten words!)
He said that the most amazing part was exiting the tube, the noise/sensation at the end of the tunnel.
Clunking to work midweek I had a similar experience!
“La Via Evitamiento” is a free-for-all five-lane toll-road chaosfest. Five lanes painted on the rutted tarmac mean nothing.
It frequently has seven lanes of traffic & it´s basically a funnel for everyone going north/south.
“Evitamiento” means avoidance in Spanish, but it is very difficult to avoid this monster!

Two big coaches were playing cat & mouse. I couldnt get round them, so I thought I´d go between.
A bit like rowing a paper boat between two container ships, a risky business!
Completely committed, on a 125cc dirt bike (that I´m still running in), the two coaches were swaying wildly & seemingly angered by my intrusion. Pushing the Clunk as hard as I dared, into a bizarrely quiet tunnel of metal. I j-u-s-t got to the far end (avoiding certain decapitation with the mirrors by inches) & popped out of the far end, into a wall of noise. Survived!4) Never-to-be-repeated!
base_imagePresentation of the General Certificate in hindering traffic flow!

Whilst waiting for a Combi, the infamous “Ola Verde” were out in full force, doing everything in their power to make things worse (than they already were). Peru has the largest Police force in all of Latin America & they all seem to be blowing their whistles at the traffic lights, waving fluorescent batons, or waving their yellow gloves, in a perculiar fashion. Completely out-of-sync with the lights & any kind of logic!
000121260WJust stop everybody…

There is a “Paradero” (bus stop), but the baton wavers weren´t letting any buses stop (at the bus stop!)
I had to get to work, but this was looking unlikely. It was hot, tempers were flaring & I snapped.
000089023M& give them a ticket!

The angry man inside of me flipped & started ranting at the Police Officer. Not my wisest move.
I have absolute respect for the Police. It´s a tough & often unrewarding job, but these clowns really, really weren´t helping.
Fortunately the Police Officer didn´t understand a word I was saying.I wasn´t arrested & I walked 3 blocks to the next Paradero, chuntering under my breath…




My tea saviour & good mate Matthew absolutely made my weekend. He not only brought out my brand spanking new Kindle. He also brought me a HUGE chunk of Cheddar cheese. I live on crappy plastic cheese slices, so a wedge of the proper stuff was sheer luxury.
Gracias amigo 🙂
Red tape…
It was something that I knew I had to do, but kept putting off. My “Tasa Annual”, renewing my residency. (It translates to “annual cup”, if I only had one cuppa-a-year, it’d be a mighty big one!)
Anyroad, I headed down to the tower block of dread; Imigraciones, in the centre of Lima on Tuesday morning.
Take a ticket-wait-get the forms-wait-see somebody after a monster queue-get some (normally duff/inaccurate/wrong) information-queue at the Banco del Nacion…
That was as far as I got, as the queue was so long, I’d still be there now!
So I went to a different Banco del Nacion on Wednesday, paid my fee & then went back to Imigraciones on Thursday.
Early doors, take a ticket-queue-wait-&-so-on-&-so-on.
When I got to the front of the (right) queue (eventually) I was then told I was exempt from paying, being married to Lina (I knew I’d get my reward one day!) So I then had to take another ticket-queue-make photocopies of everything (was tempted to take one of my backside by this point!)
Then fill in more forms & was told it should be back in my account in 45 days time!
The only good bit of the whole pantomime was that I saw my old boss Alex. A top bloke, diehard West Ham fan, skinhead & scooter boy.
He was always telling me to get my haircut when I worked for him, so was impressed with my (lack of) hair, he said I just needed to stand a bit closer to the razor!
Last week was the end of the first cycle, a mad month which saw me working more hours than I used to work at the Brewery!
Having to learn over a hundred new names was a task in itself.
I’m lucky to have some awesome students, who really want to learn.
Occasionally they bring me gifts, which is nice.
One student gave me his Firefighter’s Badge, which was an honour, as the Fire Service here are all volunteers.
Another lad brought me a box of chocolate muffins, having not eaten chocolate for 22 years, I was under pressure to taste one, but I made the excuse that I was going out for a meal after work. Lina polished them off, she said they were very nice!
Tosh is back!
Tosh wouldn’t have approved of the Ola Verde!
After a dry January (work & general illness laying me lower than a Crocodile’s ding-a-ling prevented me tippling), the Tosh Lyons inside me was back in force on Saturday. I met up with some teacher mates in my favourite boozing haunt, Barranco.
I don’t know what it is about the place, but it is ace!
photo67It soon fills up!
Real ale at the Barranco Beer Company & then a new haunt, Wick’s (no DIY involved), run by a nice couple from Holland & Romania.
25-1-sara-A1-400x264Too much head? Is it rude to ask for a top-up? 

I impressed them with my 3 words of Romanian!
After telling myself I was getting the last bus, my pacing/plan was shot to pieces when we headed back to Miraflores & Houlihan’s.
Not sure what time I got in, but needless to say Sunday was an endurance test of self-inflicted-suffering.

Victor Meldrew says…
It is summer here & that means it is hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement & sweatier than a glassblower’s backside!
Probably slightly more sweaty than hot in fact.
Therefore the buses are like little microwave ovens & the bizarre thing is that nobody opens the window, ever!
It must be linked to the whole air conditioning theory that a slight change in temperature will give you the flu (or kill you).
In classes my students would rather sweat cobs than turn on the dreaded air-con, I have to respect this & sweat cobs with them.
On the buses people do a strange finger fan to (supposedly) cool themselves down. It is about as effective as using a fork to empty a bucket of water.
“Mucho aire!” ( a lot of air, generally useful stuff I find) punters exclaim. The terrifying fear of a refreshing breeze.
I broke all the rules on Thursday morning & opened the window wide open.
Ignoring the piercing looks to the back of my head, it felt good. What a rebel!
Victor Meldrew says “Piense Varon, abre la ventana!”
Kindle time!
I don’t what it is with me, but I have a stubborn streak at times, for no real reason.
Especially with technology.
I resisted for years with digital cameras & then bought one & sold out completely.
Being an ex-British Library employee, books are in my blood.
Only the printed kind though.
However my small pile of books had all been read three times each & I needed something new.
I ummed-&-ahhhhed & finally bought one, which my mate Matthew brought out last weekend.
I love it, it’s a simple & cracking bit of kit.
(having resisted so long, I am completely sold by it. It’s ace & although it’ll never replace the feel, touch, smell & sensation of a book, it’s good to have new (limitless) reading material).
With my shocking memory (useful when I only had 6 books & re-re-read them all), I can only read one book at a time, so I’ve started off with an awesome read called “Long Ride Home” by Nathan Millward.
As most of my reading material generally includes motorbikes, travel & adventure, this is exceptional.
Well worth a read 🙂
And finally…
To finish off on a positive note, I leave you with this short video.
I spotted it on a mate’s FB wall (cheers Graham).
“People are Awesome!”
These certainly are :-)Have yersens an awesome week.
Salud 🙂
Johnny, Lina & the Nipper



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